TRIBUTES have been paid to a former STV journalist who has died at the age of 56.

Former colleague Stephen Jardine, now of the BBC, announced the death of his “best friend” Rae Stewart on Twitter on Tuesday.

Stewart was born in Tain, Ross-shire, and worked as a reporter for more than 20 years with ITN, GMTV, Sky News and STV.

He served as the STV Westminster correspondent before moving into communications.

After leaving broadcasting, he was the head of communications for the Iraq Inquiry and was press secretary to Nick Clegg when he served as deputy prime minister in the coalition government.

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Stewart also worked in government communications, including as the interim head of comms for the NHS Test and Trace during the coronavirus pandemic in 2021.

STV News reported he took early retirement in July last year owing to ill health.

Jardine announced his friend’s death on Twitter, saying: “My best friend Rae Stewart has died after an illness.

“He was just 56. Rae was a proud son of Tain and a brilliant journalist, author, husband, father and friend.

“All my thoughts today are with him and his beloved family.”

STV special correspondent Bernard Ponsonby said: “Rae was regarded as a gentleman when that term had gone out of fashion. It reflected his courtesy and good manners.

“But that should not be taken to mean he was stuffy.

“He conducted himself with a relaxed irreverence and more than a hint of charm that made him popular with colleagues and public figures alike.”